Sammie soars into Geeksboro for special screening
Sammie Cassell isn’t a superhero, but sometimes he dresses like one. And if heroism is determined by generosity and kindness he might very well qualify as a hero.
Cassell, fondly known as Sammie the Comic Book Man, is the subject of Dan Sellers’ documentary of the same name. For some years, Cassell has visited schools throughout the state, with comic books in hand and unflagging enthusiasm, a proponent of literacy, artistry, and engaging the imagination. It’s education in the guise of entertainment, and all the more persuasive as a result. (For a look at the trailer, visit https://vimeo.com/190854648.)
The film will be screened Sunday, March 26 at Geeksboro Coffee & Beverage Company in Greensboro, with Sellers and Cassell in attendance. Future screening events are planned, including one at a/perture cinemas in Winston-Salem tentatively scheduled for May (after the RiverRun International Film Festival, which runs March 30-April 9), and it will also be screened at festivals and conventions throughout the year.
Sellers, who made his feature debut as writer/producer/editor/director with the award-winning, Greensboro-lensed low-budget horror spoof Hank vs. the Undead (2015), then followed with the follow-up short Hank vs. Dracula, admits he had to adjust his perception of production when tackling a non-fiction subject.
“It’s a completely different style of filmmaking,” he observes. “I actually attempted to structure a narrative in pre-production, but once we began the editing process it became apparent that another structure had presented itself which was better than expected.
“The biggest difference is the lack of control,” he continues. “It’s still very much a creative process, but it’s sort of like building something with tools and materials given to you, instead of building from scratch.”
As Cassell’s long-time friend and partner in the ongoing Wreak Havoc Film Buffs Podcast, in which they discuss films they like (and some they don’t!), Sellers immediately saw the potential in making a film about him.
“After hearing Sammie talk about his presentations to school kids on the Talking Comics Podcast and in our own conversations, I thought it would make a great documentary. I approached him in the spring of 2015 about it and he was immediately on board. Soon after, we got Patti and Darren Blackburn on board to help us produce the film and went straight into production.”
Of course, there’s the star of the show.
“I can honestly say, this film would never have gotten made without Sammie’s hard work, in addition to being the subject of the film,” Sellers states. “He did more work as a producer than the rest of us combined. We tried our best to not interfere with the school talks he does on a regular basis, but to simply record them and present them in an entertaining fashion.”
That was sometimes easier said than done. “Getting the film made required the participation and help not only from the students themselves, but the teachers, school systems, comic-book stores, conventions, family, friends, etc. …”
With Sammie the Comic Book Man completed and ready for its festival run, Sellers and Cassell have other projects in the pipeline. Getting to them, however, is also easier said than done.
“Our biggest problem at Wreak Havoc Productions is the abundance of ideas and the lack of time and money to bring them to life,” Sellers admits. “We’re currently in pre-production on a new horror short called Midnight Shift, we’re developing a new documentary short about the Lawson Family murders (one of North Carolina’s most infamous crimes), and I’m currently writing a screenplay for a feature-length horror mockumentary. These are all in addition to the podcast and the film festival we also produce.”
(That would be the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 22-23 at The Crown in the Carolina Theatre of Greensboro. More details can be found at www.wreakhavochorrorfilmfest.com.)
Want to go …? Sammie the Comic Book Man will be screened 6 pm Sunday, March 26 at Geeksboro Coffee & Beverage Company, 2134 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro. Tickets are $5. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.355.7180 or visit the official website: https://www.geeksboro.com/.
For more information about the film or Wreak Havoc Productions, check out www.wreakhavocproductions.com/sammiethecomicbookman.